A pitch is a quick one-line description of your story.
It’s one of the most overlooked facets of writing. Many people don’t worry about the pitch until after they’ve written their story.
That’s a mistake.
Your pitch not only helps sell your work, but it’s a key factor in determining if your idea is worth developing in the first place.
It serves three functions.
1. When an editor/publisher/producer asks what you’re working on you have an answer that makes them want to hear more. (Many times you only have one sentence, about ten seconds, to hook them.)
2. You can test your idea on a friend before you write a full novel/screenplay/etc. (If a pitch doesn’t grab someone’s interest, odds are another 100,000 words won’t help).
3. It focuses you on the most important aspects of your story.
The parameters of the ideal pitch are:
* 25 words or less (17 is ideal)
* explains who protagonist is
* makes protagonist sympathetic
* shows protagonist and antagonist relationship
* describes the task ahead (plot)
* gives the beginning, middle, and end
* describes the setting
* provokes a spine-tingling reaction
Now it is darn near impossible to nail all these things for every story…but you need to try (especially that last point).
Classic pitch mistakes:
1) You say your story is about saving the world; people want to hear about interesting characters.
2) You keep secrets (“…and then something fantastic happens that solves the mystery…but you’ll have to read my novel to find out”).
3) use of proper names
Here’s an example of a good pitch (thanks to best-selling author, John Sual)
“What if a small, elite mountain community covertly uses growth hormones on their prize high school football team and accidentally creates monsters?”
And for (A Game of Universe)
“What if an assassin from the far future is hired to find the Holy Grail–only to succeed he has to first regain his soul?”
These days I make sure I have the inklings of my pitch before I start the outline, and darn sure that the pitch is perfected before I market anything.
Sure there are great stories that defy the Pitch process, but for me, life is too short to spend a year writing something that has little chance to sell.
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